STUART S. JANNEY: Our first speaker is Jason Wilson, who joined The Jockey Club as vice president of Business Development in 2010. His background is in law and finance with degrees from Princeton, UCLA, and Columbia.
He has worn several hats for The Jockey Club: He oversaw the economic study of the sport conducted by McKinsey, and he was named president and chief operating officer for Equibase Company in 2016.
Today he will update us on the activities of The Jockey Club.
JASON WILSON: Thank you, Stuart, and good morning everyone.
Typically, the Round Table Conference begins with an overview of The Jockey Club’s activities – which have expanded over the past three decades from overseeing the breed registry to providing technology solutions through The Jockey Club Technology Services, track management tools through InCompass Solutions, breeding statistics through The Jockey Club Information Systems, and marketing of the sport through America’s Best Racing. The Jockey Club also manages two joint ventures: Equibase, which provides comprehensive performance data for Thoroughbred, Standardbred and Quarter Horse racing, and BloodHorse, racing’s premiere magazine and online news destination.
If that’s not enough, The Jockey Club administers two charities: The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation, which provides grants and services to needy members of the Thoroughbred community, and the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, which provides grants to fund research to enhance the health and safety of horses of all breeds.
But since this is not a typical year, I will take this opportunity to focus on two of the companies that are helping to support the growth of the horse racing industry during this pandemic and one service I want everyone to be aware of that is offered by InCompass.
The first company is America’s Best Racing or ABR. Founded in 2012, ABR’s goal since inception has been to introduce new fans to the sport of horse racing and everything it has to offer. Over the past four months, however, ABR has had to be flexible in its strategies as one of the key selling points – a great day at the races – has been curtailed by tracks forced to race without spectators.
Fortunately, ABR is well-positioned to help racing attract fans, even if they cannot get to the track. In the past eight years, ABR has established a robust content creation machine that powers its television, website, and social media with vibrant commentary, imagery, and analysis.
ABR stories are created to have a broad impact and reach beyond the traditional horse racing audience. In the past year, ABR has experienced triple-digit growth across its social media channels.
During the early months of the pandemic, horse racing was the only live sport available to watch and wager on. One of ABR’s missions is to increase racing on television, and it provides significant sponsorship support for America’s Day at the Races, – which is produced by the New York Racing Association and runs on FOX Sports, – as well as the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series broadcast on NBC and NBC Sports.
As a result, there was a strong foundation for racing to increase its presence on television as other sports content disappeared. Recognizing this opportunity, The Jockey Club and Breeders’ Cup, along with several other racing groups launched a national advertising campaign called “Still Running Strong” to raise awareness of the availability of live racing. The campaign has generated more than 60 million impressions and 100,000 unique visitors to a dedicated landing page on ABR’s website.
In connection with this push for increased television exposure, The Jockey Club also established a High Definition Grant Fund last year to provide racetracks with up to $150,000 to purchase or lease HD production equipment, thus enhancing the video feeds that are broadcast out to other tracks and on television. To date, seven tracks have utilized this fund, and we encourage management at racetracks operating in standard definition to reach out to The Jockey Club about this resource.
Last year, ABR, BloodHorse and Equibase formed a customer data co-op to enable us to develop tools to better understand our customers. These three companies serve an aggregate of 1.8 million customers each month with little overlap. As the sport attracts new fans through ABR’s marketing efforts, the customer data co-op will provide a platform to help further promote the sport and create customer journeys from new fan to avid participant.
While ABR has only been around for eight years, Equibase is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Prior to the formation of Equibase, industry data was controlled by a third party that was not obligated to act with the racetracks’ best interests in mind. In fact, at the time racing was the only major sport that did not control its own data.
Enter Equibase. Equibase was founded as a partnership between The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America, also known as the TRA, which represents most of the tracks. The goal of this partnership was to establish a single industry-owned database of racing’s performance information. In announcing the formation of Equibase at the 1991 Round Table Conference, David Vance, former president of the TRA, said of this partnership:
“This industry has done what it must. It has taken control of its own destiny. It now owns its own statistical database, the historical record that will be so vital to this industry in the years ahead, to the breeder, to the owner, to the trainer and to the racetracks and to the racing fan.”
Thirty years on, Equibase is a shining example of the success that can be had when the racing industry works together for improvement.
To give you a sense of Equibase’s operations, in 2019, we collected approximately 30 million data points on 36,207 races over 364 days of racing. We have more than 100 chartcallers servicing 131 racetracks and supported by six home office personnel.
The formation of Equibase proved to be fortuitous because it facilitated the expansion of simulcasting and advance deposit wagering by providing consistent and easily accessible information.
In 1997, the TRA declared Equibase as the official database for racing information and statistics, and the following year, Equibase reached an agreement with the Daily Racing Form through which Equibase was established as the data supplier to that racing publication.
Ever since, Equibase has been solely responsible for the collection and dissemination of racing’s data. This is a responsibility that we take very seriously, and we are constantly assessing ways to make data more accessible to benefit the industry as well as ways to improve and expand data-collection efforts.
Equibase strives to keep data pricing low while providing revenue to support its operations. For example, Equibase charges a small royalty fee to racetracks, value-added resellers and the Daily Racing Form to use data in print products to provide to customers. The maximum royalty fee is $0.25, the same when we were founded in 1991, while the cover price for these print products has increased consistently over that period.
When Equibase was founded, customers had to pay for results information. Today, every data element that Equibase collects, including results charts, is available for free on its website. In the last decade, we have utilized digital platforms to expand our capabilities in terms of what we can provide to the industry and fans. The approximately 900,000 people who visit our website every month can access entries and results, profiles of horses, owners, trainers, and jockeys, and browse through historical data.
In 2011, we built a mobile app that now gets as much visitor traffic as our website. Just last month, we launched the newest version of the app, which features a more contemporary look as well as a new simplified betting tool for those who might not have the time or experience to analyze pages of past performances.
The tool, known as Smart Pick, creates a suggested ticket for you based on your risk tolerance, the amount of money that you want to wager, and areas of emphasis such as trainer or speed figures. Early reviews have been positive, and we welcome feedback.
This betting tool builds off of STATS Race Lens, which we launched in partnership with the company now known as STATS Perform, LLC, in 2016. Race Lens leverages Equibase’s data to determine handicapping angles to assist horseplayers, and more than 1,100 users access Race Lens each week.
While these two examples demonstrate data’s potential in revolutionizing our sport, we have also recently pursued a new avenue for data collection through global satellite positioning, also known as GPS. GPS, of course, powers multi-billion dollar companies such as Uber and Lyft.
We use this technology to provide services to tracks ranging from timing to enhanced video graphics. We are also looking into using GPS technology to collect more accurate workout information as well as provide additional data to engage fans. Similar technologies are being used overseas to support in-race wagering, which presents a new potential source of revenue stateside.
In connection with our new focus on track services, Equibase purchased the timing assets of American Teletimer Corporation earlier this year, becoming the timer at 54 Thoroughbred and harness racing tracks. With this acquisition, we will be able to offer GPS services at these tracks without interruption as well as integrate photo finish and video graphics.
These service integrations will be our primary focus over the next year as we look for ways to further streamline services for tracks.
Speaking of track services, I'd like to tell you a little about the service from InCompass I mentioned in the beginning. In 2019 InCompass launched the Interactive Racing Office, or IRO, which enables trainers to do most of the things online that they would typically do in the racing office.
IRO has benefits for trainers as well as racing offices. It allows trainers to enter horses, submit stall applications and nominate horses to stakes races. Trainers can also view information such as horse inventory, including which horses are on the steward's or vet's list, workouts and past performances. IRO also conveniently links to additional information in the horsemen section on equibase.com.
By opening entries online the night before and allowing trainers to enter horses on their schedules, the racing office staff can see which races have the potential to be filled once they show up for work. This frees up staff from spending all morning hustling the full card of races and they can now target specific races that need extra attention.
Because the pandemic has caused tracks to close racing offices to horsemen and the track to jockey agents to ensure the health and safety of everyone, InCompass has waived the service fee for the use of IRO in 2020. I urge racing offices to take advantage of this offer.
2020 has been a trying year for all industries. However, I am proud of the resilience shown by the Equibase team and all of my colleagues at The Jockey Club companies. They quickly established remote working capabilities when offices shut down in March, and they did not miss a beat in collecting and disseminating data.
Through prosperous times and through pandemics, The Jockey Club and all of our companies remain committed to serving, improving, and promoting the Thoroughbred industry.
STUART S. JANNEY: Jason, thank you for those updates.
For anyone who hasn't yet read it, I highly recommend you look up and read the essay Jason wrote on diversity in horse racing for the Thoroughbred Daily News in late June.
Jason also chairs The Jockey Club’s newly formed diversity committee, and today I'm proud to announce that our board of stewards yesterday approved funding for three college scholarships and a paid internship.
These four initiatives are designed to increase the representation of minorities, women, and low-income students throughout our organization and throughout our industry. We will provide further details on all four of those programs in an upcoming press release.